Celtic's win over Hearts and Rangers' defeat at Kilmarnock pivotal in title race, says Andy Walker
Last Updated: 13/02/20 1:45pm
Sky Sports pundit Andy Walker believes Wednesday will prove to be a "pivotal" night in the Premiership title race after Celtic moved 10 points clear of Rangers following their defeat at Kilmarnock.
Celtic have been relentless since they returned from the winter break, winning eight games out of eight in all competitions, with the latest win coming on Wednesday as they thrashed Hearts 5-0.
Conversely, Rangers' 2-1 loss at Rugby Park means they have dropped eight points in their last five league games following an impressive first half of the season.
They had gone into the winter shutdown on the back of a 2-1 victory over Celtic at Parkhead to move to within two points of the leaders with a game in hand but, following losses at Hearts and Kilmarnock, as well as a goalless draw at home against Aberdeen, Steven Gerrard's side now find themselves 10 points behind having played a game less.
Walker believes a stronger mentality and more strength in depth throughout the squad means Celtic are the clear favourites to win their ninth title in a row.
'Relentless Celtic are huge favourites'
"What we are seeing is Celtic showing their strength and their relentless pursuit of this title," said Walker. "They have got eight and are looking for nine and beyond. I think what last night shows you, with Celtic winning by five and Rangers losing so unexpectedly, it was a pivotal night.
"No one at Celtic will be taking anything for granted because they have done this before. I think they are huge favourites because they know what it takes. If Rangers do win their game in hand then it is seven points but with the type of concerns that Steven Gerrard has with his players I think Rangers might slip up once or twice before we get to the next Rangers v Celtic game and that's the difference.
"Celtic might drop the odd couple of points with a draw, they have a difficult one on Sunday up at Aberdeen but Celtic won't lose many games. They have shown that they are capable of getting over the line. I think it is down to the strength in depth and quality that they have and the stronger mentality that they have."
What has happened to Rangers?
"Steven Gerrard has hit the nail on the head that this is a group of players that lacks the mentality to take it the distance. That's what you need if you want to win a title, you need a strong mentality.
"Rangers have shown that they are capable of beating the best. In their last two games against Celtic they have outplayed Celtic and played really well but the league is relentless and the games come thick and fast and Rangers have shown that they are not quite capable of keeping up that level of performance and have dropped far too many points.
"If you look at Celtic they lost earlier in the season to Livingston but had a wonderful response and went on a long unbeaten run and then they lost to Rangers just before the winter break and since they have come back it has been eight games unbeaten.
"Even when you look at the way Celtic played last night their two special players right now might be Odsonne Edouard and Leigh Griffiths up front and neither of them scored. They had five different goalscorers so I think that tells you that Celtic have a strength in depth that Rangers don't have at the moment."
What do Rangers have to do?
"Celtic have got the strength in depth, they have got the knowledge and the players who know what it takes to get over the line and I think that is the big difference between Celtic and Rangers.
"If Rangers want to improve they have to stick by Steven Gerrard and they have to give him a bit of money to spend. Rangers need more quality, the type of quality and strength in depth that Celtic have.
"I'm not sure how strong they are in terms of their financial resources and that is another area where Celtic are so superior at the moment. If they are in any trouble they can, as they did in the January window, go out and spend a bit of money and improve the squad.
"I think it was actually the players who weren't getting a game at the time - Leigh Griffiths realised that someone came in for £3.5m and he has gone on to another level. I think if Rangers want to match Celtic they have to stick by Steven Gerrard and give him money to get more quality in."
Celtic travel to Aberdeen next
"It is always a great occasion when Celtic go up to Pittodrie, it is always a great atmosphere. Celtic went up there earlier in the season and won really comfortably. I think Aberdeen have improved since then.
"Obviously Derek McInnes has got his own problems in trying to maintain the level of consistency that they have had over the last five, six, seven years. He has been under a bit of pressure from his own supporters so nothing would give Aberdeen a bigger lift than to go up against Celtic and get all three points.
"I think on their day they are capable of it but as we see with Celtic when you get into February, March, April they realise the importance of these games and their mentality and will to win seems to get them over the line."